Thank you, Father. The 4pm mass this weekend is a children and family mass. Keeping the focus on young people seems appropriate for this CAFOD appeal. Children have been in the news recently. A teen-ager named Greta Thunberg has held a weekly protest about climate change outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm since last August. Her solitary action has caught the attention of the world’s media and spurred students around the globe to join her campaign. Teen-agers from all over the UK held a peaceful protest on a sunny afternoon just before their February half-term break.
A member of our parish even made the Weekend FT’s front page picture. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God
belongs to such as these.” Today these words from Mark’s Gospel take on unexpected new
meaning. Children, teen-agers and young adults are awake to, and alarmed by, the threats to our environment and the impact of climate change on less fortunate people around the world. Their passion and engagement are a gift that we need to plug into if we are to solve the existential crisis that is climate change. We need to pool all our gifts and knowledge and work together across the generations.
Together we must find ways to restore sustainability to the natural world, which is the vital habitat of all creatures. We also need to re-set the balance in the economic habitat of mankind, so that it is a more fair world for all. We must act, not just watch: each of us individually; us collectively as a parish; us nationally and all people globally. This mission includes everyone, from the youngest primary school pupils just learning that the Earth is warming up and its impact on the seas and seasons; to the most senior members of our community, who may be suffering the worst from air pollution in London’s streets.
What can we do? Where can we start? We can think about our personal environmental impact in terms of transport choices, consumption habits, holiday destinations, diet, or how we run our
homes. Beyond that, we can open our eyes and hearts to the hardship that families in other parts of the world face day-to-day on account of rising temperatures and sea levels. To become aware of the plight of others, and genuinely want to help, means recognising that people in need are as much our neighbour as the person in the next flat or down the street. Take the example of Mahinur from Bangladesh, who appears on the CAFOD poster for this Lent. Mahinur is struggling to feed her family from a river that used to yield plenty of fish before draught killed off most of them. Mahinur now resorts to doing odd jobs for neighbours in return for rice. Some days her family has no fish or rice, so they just drink water for dinner. The local Catholic church, supported by CAFOD’s local partners, tries to help Mahinur and others like her. Sadly, requests for aid are three times the available resources. Much more support is needed. That calls for faith and action by us, far away in England.
The teen-agers protesting about climate change have already discovered the action part. Long may that continue. May it guide their later choices of study and career. Along the way, my hope is that many will discover how closely aligned with Catholic social teaching are their desire for better stewardship of God’s creation plus a more just sharing of our world’s economic benefits.
Meanwhile, let’s all get into the act by helping our brothers and sisters like Mahinur. No one should have to call one small fish the family dinner. With our help they won’t have to. Kindly take an envelope at the back of church, fill in the form and the Gift Aid section if it applies, and bring it back next weekend with your gift. Individually and collectively, young and less young, we must all rise to the challenges of climate change and work to overcome the human suffering that brings. Supporting CAFOD’s Lent Fast Day is one step along that path. And besides, making common cause with the under 20’s just might make some of us feel a bit younger…..perhaps a bit more hopeful, too.